Memoir: Process or Product?

PrintPressWith any form of expressive writing, from spontaneous journaling to polished, published memoir, the writing process produces 90% of the benefit, at least as far as the writer is concerned.

To be clear, this 90% figure is an intuitive assessment, but not a wild guess. I extensively studied the healing value of expressive writing and wrote about it in a series of blog posts, Writing for the Health of It. I also base it on a stream of student comments that stories they wrote for class shed new light on past events, changing their perspective.

This may be especially good news if privacy concerns deter you from writing. It’s okay to write for a readership of one. In fact, that may be your healthiest, most gratifying course of action. You’ll get  most of the value even  if nobody else ever sees a word of it.

In fact, if your story upsets others, the resulting controversy and turmoil may offset the proven benefits of writing. You are well-advised to use caution when you have doubts how your story will be received. Carefully weigh your risks and benefits, and don’t risk what you’re unwilling to lose.

Other reasons people avoid publishing are more pragmatic. When you put your life on public display, you want clean copy. You want it to make sense and be free of embarrassing typos and simple grammar errors, and you want it to look nice on the page. You want it to look professional, without sacrificing authenticity.

Moving from draft to polished publication is a daunting task. Not everyone wants to exert that degree of effort. Not everyone knows how or wants to learn. You can pay people to edit your story and make it look like a million dollars. That’s like investing in custom framing for a picture you painted – nice if you can afford it. With diligent promotion, you may recoup some of the cost of professional assistance, but it’s not prudent to spend more on publication than you can afford to write off.

Finishing the draft of a memoir pays huge dividends. Polishing it pays more. The more you ponder story elements, which to include and how they interrelate, the deeper your insight and sense of meaning become. The more you study the craft of writing and contemplate  fresh ways of describing people, places and experiences, the more open you become to the world around you.

Whether you do it to contain costs with group editing or for the fun of it, joining a lifestory writing group or class provides further benefits as you bond with others and enhance writing skills through the power of story and collaboration.

Everything to the point of uploading your file to a printer is part of the process. When you choose to share your story with others, whether it takes the form of a rough stone or a polished gem, the process still holds most of the value for you. You may eventually reap huge  royalties, but whatever the financial rewards, you have created a historical document that others will treasure. That’s a mighty sweet cake. Inspiring others piles on icing – your gift to the world.

What is your aspiration? Process or product? How do you view this reward balance?

Write now: pull out your Story Idea List, select a topic and write that story!


Susan Wittig Albert said...

Sharon, excellent post! Yes, it's all good, even when it hurts. And writing for an audience of one is the best place to start.

Sharon said...

Thank you Susan. Glad you agree.